Whitewater River Descriptions:
Please Note:This document represents one person's opinions about the character and difficulty of some of the rivers frequently paddled by the Philadelphia Canoe Club. It is emphatically NOT a guide, but more a grouping of relative difficulty using the writer's subjective interpretation of the AWA River Classification Scale.
Please consult the AWA Safety info, and Whitewater Accidents and Close Calls database which can be found on their website, under Safety.Readers should note that regional interpretations exist, and have changed over time. Ed Gertler's book Keystone Canoeing, and the Middle States volume of Appalachian Whitewater more thoroughly cover many of the rivers and streams covered here. Club members also boat a wide variety of rivers not listed here; rivers are listed either because we have them on the trip schedule, or because they are common whitewater reference points for area paddlers. The rivers listed here are rated at moderate levels (ie, the lower end of "that's a decent level") ; rivers frequently become harder with more water. River levels rise and fall, rapids change, strainers can appear overnight.Please have skills and equipment appropriate to the situation, or be willing to accept the consequences. Ratings are intended to be fairly conservative for the mid 1990s. Remember that 30 years ago Cucumber Rapid on the Lower Yough was listed as a Class 5. Higher and lower river levels offer different challenges, and a paddler who has only boated small creeky stuff will tend to be startled by the New or Ottawa.
The following rivers are rated on the AWA rating scale. This scale can be accessed through the AWA website AWA.org. If the numbers don't mean anything to you, it is a good idea to check in with local paddlers to get an idea of what you might be getting involved in. Streams within about 2 hours of Philadelphia may have a brief comment attached; out of state streams are indicated.
Penna&New Jersey Whitewater runs
- Schuylkill below Flat Rock Dam to Philadelphia Canoe Club - 1+ at low summer levels. Higher levels offer more playing. Very high levels can be nasty for swimmers. (As of February 1997, all paddlers must carry around Flat Rock Dam or risk a heavy fine.)
- Lehigh at 1000 cfs or less Walter Dam to White Haven 2 White Haven to Rockport 2-3 Rockport to Jim Thorp 2-3 from 1000 to 2500 cfs the sections of the Lehigh becomes more vigorous, with better playing, but longer swims. Levels above 2500cfs require a solid roll and appropriate skills. The Lehigh is scenic, crowded during scheduled releases, and can be cold in spring and fall.
- Lower Black Creek 3-3+ at medium flow
- Nescopeck below Rte 93 2+ at 1'. Lots of small stream maneuvering among many rocks set among rhododendron and hemlock. Due to coal mine drainage, this is a good one for the opening day of trout season.
- Muddy Creek 2 (3, 5?) medium level Scenic and small, with one portageable drop much more severe than anything else on the river.
- Lambertville Wing Dam 2+ at less than 4' on Riegelsville USGS gauge (1-800-431-4721) Always enough water, though frequently too high. Widely used training and play rapid, with multiple play spots, strong currents.
- Scudders Falls on the Delaware offers good to excellent play from around 7000 CFS at Trenton up to maybe 50,000 CFS. It has changed recently, and probably will again. Formerly known primarily for its surfing wave, that wave has turned, as of 2007, into a good play hole for cartwheels, spins, loops and the latest hole move du jour. The hole is playable up to about 20,000. Above that level various play features along the fall line closer to the Pennsylvania come in. Occasional break ins have occurred, generally when few people are around.
- Darby Creek 2+
- Mill Creek 3- small stream prone to strainers. Runs infrequently for a short time after hard rains.
- Wickecheoke (NJ) 3 (4) The first 3 or 4 drops are the hardest. Below the covered bridge is generally 2+, with possibility of strainers. Needs substantial rain.
- Lockatung (NJ) 3-4 at 8.5' (one mandatory dam carry, and a 12' waterfall which can be run on the right at some levels. This is a scenic Jersey creek about half the size of the Tohickon, with higher gradient.)
- Tohickon 3+ at 2' There is a lot of playing on this creek, which runs for a day or so after hard rains, particularly outside of foliage season. Scheduled releases in March and November are generally extremely crowded. Gets more difficult above 3.5, and floodstage is at 5'. Above 3.5' the last half becomes more continuous, and swims can become long and thoroughly unpleasant.
- Geddes Run 4-5 This Tohickon tributary stops running within maybe 2 hours after a long hard rain. This should always be scouted for strainers, due to the high velocity of the water and scarcity of useful eddies. One probably mandatory portage due to very high vertical pin potential.
- Lower Youghiogheny 3+ at 2.5' Becomes pushy and harder above 4'
Surf West Virginia
- Cheat Canyon (W.Va.) 4 at 2' to 3'
- New (W.Va.) 4 at 2.5'. Big, generally open rapids with lots of play and attendant big waves, big holes and strong eddy lines
- Lower Gauley (W.Va.) 4 at 2500 cfs
- Upper Gauley (W.Va.) 4-5 at 2500 cfs
- Cheat Narrows (W.Va.) 3-
- Middle Fork Tygart (W.Va.) 4 at 4'
- Arden section of Tygart (W.Va.) 4 at 4'
- Tygart Gorge (W.Va.) 4 (4+) at 4'
- Lower Big Sandy (W.Va.) 4-5 at 6.2'
- Top Yough (MD) 4-5 at 2.2'
- Upper Yough (MD) 4-5 at 2.1'
- Deerfield, Monroe Bridge (Massachusetts) 3+ at 900 cfs
- Black River (Watertown, NY) 4 (4+) 2500cfs
- Ottawa (Ontario/Quebec) 4 at 3'
FLAT / MOVING RIVER DESCRIPTIONS:
- Batsto Lake to River—Round Trip A pretty Pine Barrens lake and river, and an easy paddle, going upstream a couple of miles, stopping for lunch and maybe a swim, then back down to the put-in; no shuttle needed. Meet at Batsto Village Visitors Center and drive together to the Batsto Lake Canoe Launch.
- Batsto-Mullica Loop No Shuttle. Walk from take-out to put-in. Easy sections of Batsto (downstream) and Mullica (upstream).
- Brandywine Creek Shaw's Bridge Park to Woodlawn Wildife Preserve. Eleven miles of beautiful scenery in a Wyeth painting. Fairly easy paddle with swifts and 3 dams to negotiate. Gradient: 4 feet per mile.
- Cedar Creek Girl Scout camp to Lanoka Harbor. One of our very favorite rivers. Challenging early on, but most of it is fairly easy, depending on water level. A must for those who have not run it. Average skills.
- Cedar Creek--Upper One of the twistiest rivers you'll ever be on. Very pretty stream. A challenge you'll enjoy.
- Delaware River (Water Gap) Dingman's Ferry to Kittatinny - This 27 mile section is within the National Recreation Area and is a free-flowing river graced with much scenic beauty. The water is clear and clean with abundant fish and wildlife. The current is swift in places with some class I rapids and ledge drops. Gradient: 1.85 feet per mile. This trip is a two day paddle with camping one night usually at the Hamilton Canoe / Camping Site on the New Jesey side.
- Great Egg Harbor River
Weymouth Furnace to Lake Lenape. Fairly easy pine barrens river. Some tricky turns early on, easy middle and Lake Lenape at the end, where, if the the wind is in your face - Hell. If it's at your back - Heaven.
- Great Egg Harbor River Penny Pot to Weymouth Furnace. Moderately twisty, interesting stream of intermediate length. Paddlers need average or intermediate skills. Lot of swim and snack spots.
- Lake Nockamixon Paddle around the shores of this pretty lake. Practice your paddling skills. Have a picnic. Easy and fun- filled day.
Manumuskin Creek, Cumberland Co. A tributary of the Maurice River, this is a beautiful tidal creek surrounded by a wide freshwater marsh. It is not a Pine Barrens creek. There is no shade. We paddle up with the tide and back down against the tide. The put-in is muddy at low tide when we start. No shuttle needed.
- Marsh Creek State Park--Family Day Come with your kids for a day of paddling and picnicking at Marsh Creek State Park. Pretty Lake. Teach, learn...Fun for all.
- Maurice River Here it is, with its poison ivy, its many carry-overs, its beauty and its incredible fun. Long trip. Don't make evening plans.
- Mullica River Pine Barrens through several habitats. Water level determines length - long or very long. A Wild and Scenic River.
- Musconetcong River Fascinating, exciting Class I-II river with ledge drops almost every 50 yards. Very rain dependent, Can be a scrape or a swift run.
- Octoraro Creek Class 1+ stream in southern Chester County, PA into Cecil County, MD. Numerous ledge drops, swifts and rock gardens. Gradient: 9 feet per mile. Subsurface rocks can make this a challenging 15 mile run.
- Oswego River One of the prettiest and easiest streams in the Pine Barrens. Begins on Oswego Lake and ends on Harrisville Pond.
- Penn's Creek Mostly open, average current, some pretty scenery, some built-up areas.
- Pennypack Creek Krewstown Road to Rhawn Street - Pennypack Creek is a delightful urban waterway in one of Philadelphia's protected natural areas. This 3.6 mile section is entirely within Pennypack State Park. The creek is a small, low-volume stream dotted with rocks, shallows and swifts. Conventional wisdom suggests the Pennypack is unavigable, but if you don't mind scraping, it is worth the effort. The scenery along the creek is charming with hiking and equestrian trails lining the wooded banks. A 4-foot dam just upstream of Roosevelt Blvd. will have to be carried.
- Schuylkill River, Mont Clare (Phoenixville) to Valley Forge Put in at Lock 60 Park, take out at Betzwood Ramp, Valley Forge Park, a distance of about 8 miles. This is a very pretty part of our home river, with good water quality.
- Schuylkill River, Pottstown to Linfield This is an attractive portion of the Schuylkill River starting some 40 miles upstream from Philadelphia, with good water quality. Expect numerous riffles and easy Class I rapids and be prepared for a Class II standing wave at the former Vincent Dam.
- Toms River From the edge of the Pine Barrens into a city. Clean and pretty. A long trip but well worth it. Average skills needed.
- Wading River Very popular river with lots of rentals, noise - yet a great paddle. A pretty river with lots of places to stop including a dam. It's all there. Can be a very long trip.
- West Branch Brandywine Creek Corcorans Bridge to Shaw's Bridge park. This trip, just under 7 miles, provides a picturesque portrait of a delightful section of rural Chester County. It features swifts, ledge drops and some rock gardens that require maneuvering, but the few rapids are mild. Landmarks include Northbrook Canoe Outfitters and a slice of the King Ranch with its Texas Longhorn cattle. Gradient: 5.27 feet per mile.
- Upper Tohickon Creek
Dam Release - swift but mainly flat water, with a rollicking Class II wave train at the end.
Experienced paddlers. Cold weather & water clothing necessary.
- Westecunk Creek A Little gem of a trip. Begins as a twisty little river but slow, after a great lunch spot, opens up to a marsh, then to open bay. Lots of waterfowl. A challenge.
- Wading River - Full Moon Trip Hawkin to Evans Bridge - Paddle under the light of the full moon through the pine barrens on an intimate 5.2-mile section of the Wading River. Put-in is at Hawkin Bridge on Tulpehocken Creek after a bumpy night-time drive over sandy Friendship Road. Take-out is at Evans bridge on Route 563. This is a trip you won't soon forget.